Lennie Ware talks Table Manners podcast success, awkward kitchen disasters, and her surprising guest wishlist

Lennie Ware sits down for a candid chat on her incredible success as an unlikely food podcaster

Lennie Ware talks Table Manners podcast success, awkward kitchen disasters, and her surprising guest wishlist
(Image credit: Marie Claire UK/Ford)

Lennie Ware's journey to becoming a beloved culinary podcaster in her late sixties didn't happen overnight, but luckily for us, it didn't take too long either. 

The London social worker shot to prominence in 2017 as the matriarchal voice of her daughter Jessie Ware's food podcast, Table Manners, and has quickly become a bona fide icon with the millennial generation. 

Over the past four years, the project has exploded in magnitude, evolving from a humble hobby into a successful family business boasting a total fanbase of over 3.5m listeners. 

Jessie and Lennie have since welcomed a litany of A-list stars, including George Ezra, Stanley Tucci, and Kylie Minogue, to their Clapham dining table for a homemade meal and a candid chat, with everything from politics to music up for discussion. Oh, and 'oversharing' with this mother-duo is always on the menu, so try not to take the podcast's title too literally. 

Now halfway through Table Manners' twelfth season, Lennie's life today looks quite different from the anonymity of her pre-podcast days. The 70-year-old amateur chef added published author to her already impressive resumé last year, launching one of the best cookbooks for 2021 (co-written by Jessie) onto the market shortly before the pandemic hit. If that wasn't exciting enough, she also has plans to do live shows in the near future, while continuing to record the regular podcasts from home. 

As part of our Driven series with Ford, we sat down with the trailblazing woman to get the real story of how she went from a culinary-gifted social worker to an Internet sensation within the space of a few short years. Speaking with Marie Claire UK's Holly Rains, Lennie opened up about everything from the podcast's initial intentions to the cooking calamity she'd rather forget. 

"It was not my idea [Table Manners], it was Jessie's idea," she revealed. "Her idea was that she would interview everybody in her address book, and then, go beyond that, and I would just cook and keep quiet. It didn't work out like that. Not at all." 

After just three episodes, she had moved away from the stove and was "sitting down talking to people" at the table. Her natural rapport with the guests quickly became an essential ingredient for the podcast, leading to her 'promotion' from a background character to a permanent host. 

Despite exhibiting a natural flair for interviewing, Lennie had never envisioned it would turn into a career. The psychiatric social worker, who has a whopping 40 years of experience under her belt, continues to balance the podcast with her 9-5 job and shows no signs of retiring any time soon. 

"I'm only really 26," she joked when asked about where she finds the time to fulfill the two high-pressure roles. "I might moan a bit." 

Luckily, she has little to complain about when it comes to being a social worker. The mother-of-three decided to pursue the occupation after she was introduced to it in school, only to discover just how perfectly suited she was to the profession. 

"I thought, that sounded really interesting. It's not boring. I'm passionate about children and children's rights and achieving good outcomes," she said. "I feel very satisfied with my job. I love being a social worker. It's been endlessly amazing." 

Lennie Ware speaks to Marie Claire UK

(Image credit: Marie Claire UK/Ford)

Having now fed over 150 celebrities in her cozy abode, Lennie has whipped up dishes for a wide variety of palates and tastes. However, she rarely adjusts the recipe to suit the guest's preferences, emphasizing that she isn't trying to recreate the restaurant experience. 

"I'm not like Masterchef," she insists. "I'm a good cook." 

But even the best cooks have bad days, and Lennie's no exception. She recalls the disastrous evening when she hosted George Ezra, revealing that her recipe bombed so badly that they were forced to serve him takeaway. 

"Jessie had marinated some short ribs, which were actually very long ribs because they hadn't been cut. They were inedible," she admitted. "We actually had to order in." Luckily, the English singer-songwriter wasn't overly disappointed by the letdown. "He was the sweetest, loveliest person. He didn't really mind." 

As for her guest wishlist, Lennie has no hesitations on who she'd like to host next. 

"Marcus Rashford, we would absolutely adore. A, because I'm a Man U supporter and, B, because I think he's wonderful. I think we'd learn a lot. I'd love him to come with his mum," she said. "And of course, Barbara Streisand."